You’re a PPPPredator! You’re a PPPPredator! You’re ALL PPPPredators!

I think I finally get it: what Jeffrey Beall is driving at, given his apparent standard that One Bad Article Condemns An Entire Publisher and his apparent plan to discredit each significant gold OA publisher for some reason, one at a time…

Namely, he’s too narrow but he’s right–and I’m using “PPPPredator” for “potential, possible or probable predatory publisher.”

I apologize for doubting him; I simply failed to realize the Oprahism in what he’s saying, once you remove the OA-only blinders: to wit, every publisher is a PPPPredator.

No? Consider:

  • BMC is owned by Springer Nature, so now that Beall’s pointing out one possibly-defective article in one journal from BMC–but phrasing it as an attempt to discredit BMC in general, with the tagline “This is scholarly open-access publishing,” it only makes sense to conclude that Springer Nature is a PPPPredator.
  • Frontiers just had the honor of being added to Beall’s list because…well, because Beall Gets Complaints. (But then, it’s also part of Springer Nature and we already know Springer Nature is a PPPPredator) Corrected: While Holzbrinck, owner of Nature Publishing Group (now part of Springer Nature), is a minority investor in Frontiers, NPG itself does not own Frontiers. I regret the error/oversimplification.
  • Beall’s made it clear that APC-charging journals inherently represent a conflict of interest (but apparently subscription journals with page charges don’t), and pretty much every major subscription journal publisher now has at least “hybrid” journals (it appears that a substantial majority of subscription journals from larger publishers now have “hybrid” options, at least based on Outsell’s reports), and most of them have APC-charging Gold OA journals, then Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, SAGE, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, the American Chemical Society, BMJ, RSC, IOP, American Institute of Physics…all PPPPredators. (With a bit of research, I could extend that list quite a bit…)
  • AAAS (publishers of Science)? Yep. Science Advances (even if the others aren’t “hybrid,” which I don’t know), so AAAS is a PPPPredator.
  • Hmm. That does leave gold OA publishers funded by means other than APCs, but since Beall’s already attempted to discredit SciELO and Redalyc for being “favelas,” I’m sure he has similar approaches at the ready for other serious non-APC gold publishers.

So there it is. You’re a PPPPredator! You’re a PPPPredator! You’re all PPPPredators!

(Now that I think of it, I don’t believe ALA has any APC-charging gold OA journals or hybrid journals, although it does haveĀ  both non-APC gold OA and subscription journals…but ALA’s published my writing on open access (or my “bilge” as Beall termed it in one of his never-ad-hominem remarks, which he since deleted from the comment stream in which it appeared), so they must be a PPPPredator.)

Well, that’s a relief.

Actually, it’s also true: any publisher is potentially a predatory publisher, especially when one man gets to determine what’s predatory. Pretty much every publisher will occasionally publish a “bad” paper, possibly one that some others think is “obviously” bad, possibly even one that’s plagiarized. Pretty much every publisher will have at least one journal where at some point the editorial board or peer review may involve issues (excessive publication, editorial overrides, etc.).

I need to modify some previous conclusions. As far as I can tell, somewhere between 1.4 and 2.5 million papers were published last year by PPPPredatory publishers,in the most general sense.

If you want to avoid all PPPPredatory publishers….you’ll just have to self-publish or go directly to arXiv or some other archive.

Or you could step back, take a deep breath, and look at journals using a little judgment and, for open access, the Directory of Open Access Journals, a whitelist that’s getting better and better. And maybe a little common sense. If you believe your already-paid-for scholarly research deserves the widest possible audience, there are thousands of serious gold OA journals available that don’t even charge author-side fees. (At least 6,383 of them published articles in 2014.)

Oh, and since this is my own odd little contribution to Open Access Week, let me add: If you want to know more about the realities of serious gold OA publishing from 2011 through 2014, based on a 100% “sample” of what’s out there, I’ll recommend my book The Gold OA Landscape 2011-2014, available in paperback form or as a site-licensed non-DRM PDF ebook. Every library school should have a copy; so should every serious OA publisher, at the very least. So, IMNSHO, should every ARL library.

A couple of non-footnotes:

  • What? You believe one fundamentally flawed journal is enough to discredit a publisher, even if one article isn’t? You might check into the publisher that continues to publish a “scientific” journal that presumes that water somehow has memory… Just a hint, the name begins with Els…
  • If you think I’m saying “All publishers are alike” or “There are no fundamentally defective journals” or “There are no publishers more interested in scamming money than in actual scholarship”–I’m not.
  • If you think I’m saying “Blacklists are fundamentally flawed, and any transparent blacklist would include every major publisher”–well, yes, I am.
  • NOTE: A handful of possibly-inflammatory words changed at 4:15 p.m. PDT October 20, 2015. The message stays the same.
  • And, of course, “pretty much every” does not at all mean “every,” just “many or most large and well-known.” Maybe it’s in the same truth-space as “all gold OA publishing involves APCs.” Maybe not.

5 Responses to “You’re a PPPPredator! You’re a PPPPredator! You’re ALL PPPPredators!”

  1. MMMM says:

    Let’s be clear here: Frontiers is not, and never was part of NPG or Springer Nature. Please correct this.

  2. Walt Crawford says:

    Corrected: Holzbrinck, which owned NPG and is now part of Springer-Nature, is a minority investor in Frontiers, but NPG itself does not own Frontiers.

  3. David Solomon says:

    MMMM It’s pretty easy to see how someone might get confused.

    “One of the fastest-growing open-access publishers, Frontiers, has been snapped up by Nature Publishing Group (NPG, which publishes this blog as part of, the company announced today.”

    That’s a direct quote, first sentence, from a post on Nature’s own Newsblog by Richard Van Noorden.

    Perhaps NPG has had some buyer’s remorse in the last couple of years.

  4. Walt Crawford says:

    David: Thank you for that. I thought I remembered that NPG had acquired Frontiers, and it’s probably from that post or a repost on it. The headline overstates what’s in the story…and since then, a “majority” investment has apparently become a *minority* investment.

  5. David Solomon says:

    Walt, you are welcome. I was also under the impression NPG had purchased Frontiers including it in a presentation I gave last week. When I read your post and the response from MMMM I went back and checked. Yes, technically we were both wrong but a misconception clearly fostered by NPG a few years ago.